In Washington D.C., a great deal of sexual harassment is reported within the city’s public transit system. But over in Copenhagen, one Danish bus company is concerned that there may be too few bus-based sexual advances in the city. So, in order to “encourage flirtation, smiles, romance and happiness among the city’s passengers,” bus company Arriva has introduced a “Love Seat” program on its Copenhagen buses [Thanks to Ben for the tip!]. From The City Fix:
Starting on May 3, Danish transport company Arriva introduced red-upholstered designated “love seats” on more than 100 buses in Copenhagen to encourage flirtation, smiles, romance and happiness among the city’s passengers, whether they’re happily single, married or still looking for love. The bigger idea—-besides being cute—-is to get people to leave their cars parked at home and enjoy riding public transportation, as more of a social endeavor.
The buses are outfitted with pairs of red upholstered seats with a sign designating them a “love seat.” According to an Arriva spokesperson, the Arriva social experiment is going just swimmingly!:
“You never know what will happen,” spokesman Martin Wex told AFP. “We cannot guarantee that you will find the person of your dreams. We are just offering the possibility for people to communicate, to smile a bit more and possibly, to win someone’s heart.”
The experiment, which according to driver testimony has lightened the mood on buses, is to last two weeks, Wex said. “Some drivers have noticed smiling girls sitting in these seats,” hoping for interesting company, he said.
Ah, Europe. Wouldn’t it be nice if the biggest cultural problem for your city’s public transit system was that too few people succeed in finding unexpected love there? I don’t know much about bus culture in Copenhagen, but I imagine that red “Love Seats” would serve an entirely different function in a place like D.C.—-they’d inform passengers where not to sit in order to avoid the worst of the harassment. D.C. isn’t exactly known for spontaneous smiles, romance and happiness breaking out on our public transportation—-but perhaps that guardedness is a product of the prevalence of gender-based harassment here, not a sign that we need to encourage more flirting.
Possible cultural differences aside, I’m not sure that anonymous “driver testimony” filtered through an Arriva spokesperson gives us the best idea of how this program is actually working out abroad. Wex is right that “you never know what will happen” on a Love Seat. What if one person with an interest in “smiles” and “happiness” sits next to someone more inclined to “flirtation” and “romance”? Are passengers who sit in Love Seats considered “asking” for whatever advances come their way? When buses are crowded, will passengers be forced to open themselves to “flirtation”?
So far, the only photographic evidence I’ve found of the Love Seat in action shows one scowling older gentleman sitting alone—-in an aisle seat. Perhaps the most dangerous threat posed by Arriva’s initiative is the possibility that it will simply be ignored.
Photo via genelin1221, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0